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To beat the February blues, I often head over to the National Home Show to see the latest in design and decorating trends. Each year it amazes me how many exhibitors there are (over 700!) and the endless aisles of furnishings and home decor available. If you're thinking about updating your home any time this year, it's definitely worth checking out the show, open at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto, February 18-27. Many of the exhibitors are offering discounted prices for those who attend the show, including Andrew Richard Designs and Bowring, making it especially worthwhile if you plan to buy any larger items. (This blog is sponsored by the National Home Show.) Here's what I saw on opening day today.

When I arrived, I got to catch Benjamin Moore Canada colour and design expert Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault talk about envisioning colour and incorporating it into your space. Check out the hot pink behind her — now that's colour! I'm not always brave enough to use bold colours, so it was good to be encouraged.

Later I got to hear designer Yanic Simard, presented by Mirolin and Antica Tile & Stone, chat about overcoming the design challenges of small spaces — definitely a hot topic here in Toronto. He offered useful advice on ways to pare down clutter, too. Aside from Simard and Perrault, many more celebrities will appear on the Urban Barn Main Stage, including Debbie Travis, Colin McAllister & Justin Ryan, Frankie Ferragine and more. Check the stage schedule to see what days and times each celebrity will be there. You'll get great tips and tricks on ways to update your home.

The Boulevard of Dreams, presented by the Toronto Star, featured two dream homes, one Mancave and nine gardens. The Carleton home by Quality Homes (pictured above) shows how luxurious a prefabricated home can be. The entire 1,640-square-foot house is inside the Direct Energy Centre, and is furnished by Sears Canada.

When you're inside the home, it is nearly impossible to tell that the house is prefabricated. The Carleton model has two bedrooms, a principal bedroom, an ensuite bathroom and a regular bathroom, along with a dining room, laundry room, living room and kitchen! Despite the small size, they were able to pack in quite a lot of items throughout the space. The pendant lights here in the kitchen are like the ones our assistant design editor Kathryn Bala showed us how to make in a past H&H Online TV episode.

Loving the marine light here in the living room and the stack of books next to the chaise.

The white mirrored console table makes a graphic, contemporary statement.

The vintage washing board, soap boxes and wire sock stretchers in the laundry room add charm, too. And check out the antique iron!

They also maximized a small closet space, creating storage with double-layer hanging rods and shelves for folded clothes, shoes and bags. Throughout the home, you could see that every inch of space was used effectively.

After, I checked out the RYOBI Mancave built by Summerwood Products and designed by Ramsin Khachi. Definitely a retreat for men! Where else would you find a suspended game table?

Two of the other unique elements include the small indoor putting green and garage doors that are actually windows, too. The flooring choice here is perfect for a space where you will be using tools, making a mess and bringing in winter muck.

The doors to the left are covered in chalkboard paint and serve as a memo board, including dates to remember (anniversaries and birthdays, anyone?). Inside is where garbage, compost and recycling is kept. No mancave is complete without refreshments, so a mini beverage and snack station was set-up to the right. The centre portion houses biking and golf equipment and off-season tires. Ramsin's Mancave might just inspire you to organize your own garage or basement to become a practical, useful environment for your family.

The nine garden areas along the Boulevard of Dreams demonstrate how you can create your own vacation-like retreat in your backyard. Outdoor entertaining has been taken to a whole new level, with stainless steel fridge drawers and even a fire stove to make pizzas. Full outdoor seating areas and bars are seen throughout, too.

I then moved on to see some of the products being showcased. Bowring has a huge product area, including living room and bedroom displays.

I particularly liked the bright pillows they carry. They're a quick way to update your space for spring and summer. The folds on the bottom left pillow remind me of origami.

Not everyone loves fake flowers, but I find these ones so pretty. When I can't have a vase of fresh flowers, these will do. Recently style editor Morgan Michener blogged about how to use faux flowers in your home.

I then moved on to Kuda Furniture & Homewares. This distressed armoire has a real worldly feel to it. I love the hardware, too.

This teak statement chair and table from Kuda is very organic.

For a dose of country and Canadiana, you could use this plaid blanket from Roots on a bed or as a chair throw. I always enjoy this kind of classic winter style.

Stay tuned for a continuation of this blog post next Wednesday! There's so much to see at the show, there's no way it could all be highlighted in one blog post. I'll give you a sneak peek inside the Concept PolygHome Glass House, with interiors designed by Debbie Travis. It combines contemporary style with cosy elements, which Debbie has cited as a trend she is seeing right now. I'll also include a preview of the 2011 Product Gallery presented by Enbridge Gas, curated by Janette Ewen and Grown Design, which showcases Ty Pennington's new fabric line and more. You'll also see a few more furniture finds.

When you head out to the show, buy your tickets online and use the promo code "HOUSE" to save $6 off regular adult admission. This Monday, February 21, the show also has lots going on for Family Day, and those under 17 will get in free, too, courtesy of Rogers.

Photo credits:
1-26. Seema Persaud

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